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NATION IN BRIEF: Va. judge strikes down federal health care law

RICHMOND, Va. — A federal judge declared the foundation of President Barack Obama’s health care law unconstitutional Monday, ruling that the government cannot require Americans to purchase insurance. The case is expected to end up at the Supreme Court.

U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson wrote that no court had expanded the Commerce Clause of the Constitution to allow the government to regulate a person’s decision not to buy a product.

‘‘At its core, this dispute is not simply about regulating the business of insurance — or crafting a scheme of universal health insurance coverage — it’s about an individual’s right to choose to participate,’’ Hudson wrote.

In his order, he said he will allow the law to remain in effect while appeals are heard, meaning there is unlikely to be any immediate impact on other provisions that have already taken effect. The insurance coverage mandate is not scheduled to begin until 2014.

Sick Ohio kids take fantasy flight to North Pole

CLEVELAND — What was billed as a flight to the North Pole never left the ground, but that didn’t matter to about 50 children and their families in Cleveland.

Most of the kids who took part in the weekend adventure at Hopkins airport were ailing patients from two hospitals. Many had never been on an airplane.

The Plain Dealer newspaper reported they were guided onto a Continental Airlines jet Saturday by elves wearing candy cane-striped tights and green, curly toed shoes.

Crew members lowered the shades inside the cabin so the inside lights wouldn’t hurt the eyes of reindeer. And then the engines roared for the fantasy journey.

The children deplaned to find Santa, Christmas trees and gifts. It was all part of a tradition that began several years ago.

Inmate seeking kosher meals cites Festivus

SANTA ANA, Calif. — An inmate in California who disliked salami was able to receive kosher meals after his attorney cited the ‘‘Seinfeld’’ holiday Festivus as his religious belief.

The Orange County Register reported Monday that 38-year-old convicted drug dealer Malcolm Alarmo King asked for kosher meals at the Theo Lacy jail to maintain his physique.

Orange County sheriff’s officials reserve such meals for inmates with religious needs, so a judge demanded a religious reason for King to get the meals.

His defense attorney, Fred Thiagarajah, cited his client’s devotion to Festivus — the holiday celebrated on the hit TV show with an aluminum pole and the airing of grievances.

Sheriff’s spokesman Ryan Burris said King got salami-free meals for two months before the county got the order thrown out in court.

Teen accused in stabbing of Calif. girl, baby

VACAVILLE, Calif. — A Northern California boy faced attempted murder and sexual assault charges Monday after police said he raped a 13-year-old girl and attacked her baby brother.

Police said the young victims were home alone at the time of the break-in Sunday morning in Vacaville, Calif.

The 14-year-old suspect allegedly raped and stabbed the girl more than 30 times. The 18-month-old infant awoke during the attack, prompting the boy to also stab him more than 10 times, police said.

Security camera snaps naked man in cemetery

PICAYUNE, Miss. — A man caught naked in a south Mississippi church cemetery said he was trying to take photographs of spirits.

Robert Hurst said that he shed his clothes because he believes skin is the best canvas to show spirits’ orbs of energy.

The 47-year-old said he only intended to remove his shirt, but he took off all his clothes — a move he now calls ‘‘stupid.’’

Hurst faces a misdemeanor charge of indecent exposure. He posted $500 bond after turning himself in Friday.

Ex-TV chef gets 9 years in plot to kill wife

LOS ANGELES — With a wink and smile at his wife, former ‘‘Calorie Commando’’ TV chef Juan-Carlos Cruz was sentenced to nine years in prison Monday after pleading no contest to trying to hire two homeless men to murder her.

In a plea agreement, Cruz, 48, pleaded no contest in October to a charge of solicitation of murder, and prosecutors dropped a more serious count of attempted murder.